I’ve been a fan of IDLES ever since I stumbled across the video for Well Done in my second year of sixth form. Much of the music I listened to at the time (certainly the bulk of the music my friends were into) was somewhere between indie-pop and indie-rock, so being used to the polished, Instagrammable chic of bands like Sundara Karma and Peace or the slick rock of Muse and Royal Blood, IDLES were a revelation. Watching lead singer Joe Talbot storm about the stage in piss-stained trousers screaming about Mary Berry while the rest of the band cavorted to a brash, angry soundtrack, I felt like I was seeing something completely different and exciting.  I was instantly obsessed, and spent the next few months (unsuccessfully) trying to convert friends so I could go with someone to their upcoming Oxford gig.

One album, two singles, and two gigs later I’m no less enthusiastic. Whilst other bands like LICE and Shame have since come onto my radar, I’m still yet to find a band that rivals the Bristol quintet for visceral, sincere outpourings of frustration and rage; in a moment of austerity and rising anti-immigrant sentiment, their music encapsulates the anger that we should be feeling. In their own words:

At a point of uncertainty, IDLES bring you concise carnage. At a time of lies, IDLES bring you honesty. 
At a time of body shaming and Photoshop, IDLES bring you a visceral barrage of joyous bile.
At a time of The Kardashians, IDLES bring you a story of working hard for what and who you love.
In a time of polarised politics and murky waters; IDLES and bands like them are needed to remind people that it’s ok to dance and laugh and sing in the face of adversity.

Far from being mere aimless aggression, however, their lyrics are some of the most relevant being churned out by any UK artists outside of the grime scene. Through explosive lyrics exploring topics surrounding class, sexual assault, religion, mental health, and the pressures of masculinity, Talbot takes aim at the pretentious, the materialistic, the selfish, and at Rachel Khoo. Their debut album, Brutalism, is a raucous 42-minute whirlwind tour which takes us from dissatisfaction with the mundaneness of everyday life, via sexual violence, economic injustice, depression, religion, the stifling atmosphere of small-town life, art, drugs, and finally closes with a slow song where Talbot describes “realising how much of an asshole I was to my ex-girlfriend”.

Ania Shrimpton Photography

Exciting as their album is, it’s in the flesh that IDLES really come into their own. I first saw them live last autumn, at Manchester’s Neighbourhood Festival. It was around two o’clock in the afternoon, and they were opening the O2 Ritz. The venue was fairly empty, with a small crowd of IDLES fans (and people waiting for The Amazons’ set) by the stage. I thought it might be a bit of a disappointment, given their slot, yet it was without a doubt one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to. The crowd was sensational, the music was as loud and brash as I’d expected, and they were fantastic with the crowd, with both guitarists staggering through, playing and hugging people. My friend and I left, dripping with sweat, knees bruised, and in his case bleeding and clutching his broken glasses, but fucking exhilarated. As you’d expect, their performances (and the crowds at them) are furiously energetic, charged, and relentless, but like their music the atmosphere has a strong undercurrent of compassion and solidarity — you may well break your nose, but the second you do everyone will be making sure you’re okay. I think that’s what’s so exciting about IDLES — what they have to offer is so honest and so tangible, the audience they draw really feels like a united community.

IDLES are one of the most exciting bands in the UK right now, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.

Photos taken by Ania Shrimpton, Facebook: Ania Shrimpton Photography

Categories: Arts and Culture

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